Micro Center Case Study

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Profile
Micro Center®, a unique, upscale retail chain that operates 21 retail stores in major markets nationwide, is a division of the Micro Electronics, Inc. family of businesses, all leading providers of computer products, accessories and services, headquartered in Columbus, OH.

Micro Center is a destination retailer designed to satisfy the dedicated computer user by offering more computers and computer-related products than any other retailer. Micro Center pioneered a unique approach to selling personal computers and their stores boast the largest square footage devoted exclusively to computers and computer-related items. A key component of Micro Center’s success is its Sales Associates, recognized by customers and industry observers alike as the most knowledgeable in the business.

Challenge
Several years ago, Micro Center began creating eLearning content to train its associates across the nation. The problem, however, was that its courses seemed more like “page-turners” that merely stated what the users needed to learn rather than teaching them by example how to handle specific scenarios and follow certain procedures. It was apparent that they needed more interactive courses to keep the learners engaged.

While Micro Center purchased Lectora authoring software in 2004, it wasn’t until their training team and development skills grew that they discovered all the features the product has to offer. In 2007, Micro Center re-evaluated the tool and realized that they could indeed create courses that its users would be excited to see.

Solution
The Training team at Micro Center firmly believes in “learning by doing.” After looking at Lectora, the design team knew that the tool would enable them to create branched simulations for adaptive eLearning that would achieve just what they had in mind. The team then set out to create Micro Center’s new Management 101 Training Program by using Lectora to create engaging simulations and to throw out the “page-turner” approach.

“By simply using Lectora, the design team was able to create learning scenarios that took learners to a specific question or page just based on their actions and answers to previous questions.”

During the simulation, learners are then given the opportunity to Get Advice, receive Expert Coaching, or access background learning material. These three options provide learners with an interactive way to receive hints and advice on each scenario. Users can also review the lecture content at any time in order to better understand and reinforce concepts as they arise during the simulation. Expert Coaching is a coaching overview applicable to the entire simulation, which provides general tips and advice from noted authors about the problems addressed in the branching simulation. Finally, Get Advice permits users to obtain context sensitive advice for the specific problem and choices that are on the screen at the time.

Results

“The real benefit of Lectora is that it saved development time, while also making courses more dynamic and sophisticated.”

The team designed a prototype which utilized variables in Lectora to create the back-end logic that was needed to develop branched learning scenarios. The design team soon discovered that after creating one prototype, they could develop a template that would carry this logic into other courses, thus saving time in creating future courses.

When the design team first began developing branched simulation courses with Lectora, they thought they would need to use other tools in conjunction with Lectora to create a sophisticated level of interactivity. To their surprise, however, the assumption was wrong. By simply using Lectora the design team was able to create learning scenarios that took learners to a specific question or page just based on their actions and answers to previous questions.

All of the Management 101 courses include audio, video, multiple choice questions and more. For instance, one of the courses in this curriculum is called Managerial Behavior and is meant to teach new managers or supervisors how to deal with certain situations that they may encounter. In each question, the learner walks through a simulation of a scenario and must decide how they would handle the situation.
By utilizing Lectora to create branched simulations, the Training Department was able to dramatically cut development time, while at the same time improving course interactivity. After the team developed the logic behind the first course, each additional course took only significantly less time to develop. “The real benefit of Lectora is that it saved development time, while also making courses more dynamic and sophisticated,” said John Zurovchak, an instructional designer in the Training Department.

John also noted that other course developers on the team were able to replicate the new course approach using the template. “The most amazing thing about this tool is that it isn’t hard to use,” said John. “It has everything you need to make a course that learners will not only enjoy, but also learn from, yet it’s still easy to use.”

Since Lectora was the only authoring tool Micro Center used to create courses, they were able to cut down on costs as well. “By using Lectora, we eliminated the need to use Flash in courses,” said John. “Training Departments can spend significant amounts of time and money creating Flash animations because they think it’s the only way to make a course engaging, but our results have proved that Lectora can do it all.”

By simply using Lectora, Micro Center created the type of courses its team had dreamed of since it first began its journey into eLearning a number of years ago. “The flexibility and power of Lectora has helped us to evolve from page-turner courses to engaging learning simulations that our users enjoy taking and that improve learning and performance in the long run,” added John.

“…our results have proved that Lectora can do it all.”